The New York Philharmonic

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A chance for students grades 3-8 to compose

Very Young Composers allows students with little or no musical background to create, notate, and hear their very own music performed by Philharmonic musicians.

Program Highlights

  • VYC

    Very Young Composers (VYC)

    An afterschool program through the School Partnership Program for grades 3-5 that exposes students to the instruments of the orchestra, nurtures their inherent creativity, and culminates with original works performed by members of the Philharmonic.

  • VYC

    The Composer's Bridge

    As they move on to middle school, many students who have taken VYC want to develop their musical skills. The Composer's Bridge gives them this opportunity by fostering technical and creative independence and providing opportunities to compose music for the Philharmonic and other events.

  • VYC

    Very Young Composers International

    The VYC idea is rapidly catching on. It has reached children on four continents in countries including Korea, China, Japan, Venezuela, Spain, and Finland. VYC students in various American cities are exchanging "musical postcards" with these children.

About the Program — Very Young Composers

Very Young Composers (VYC) was developed by noted composer (and former Associate Principal Bass) Jon Deak to answer the question, "what is children's music?" Working with Mr. Deak and Philharmonic Teaching Artists, public school children, with limited musical background, compose their very own music for Philharmonic musicians to play - often for the full Orchestra. Students make every compositional decision and write every note, with Teaching Artists serving as mentors and scribes. VYC demonstrates children's innate creativity, and provides a glimpse of the future of classical music.

VYC has grown since 1995 to include a number of ongoing initiatives.

  • After-school workshops through the Philharmonic's School Partnership Program involve 72 fifth-graders, who participate in 12 weekly workshops with Teaching Artists and visiting musicians. Their completed chamber works are performed publicly each spring.
  • The Philharmonic's School Day Concerts, heard by 10,000 students from the entire metropolitan area, feature performances of fully orchestrated pieces, selected from the prior spring's Very Young Composers premieres. Talented high school composers also write pieces especially for the School Day Concerts.
  • The Bridge provides graduates of the VYC, who have reached middle school, with the opportunity to develop musical skills and compositional independence as they prepare for advanced studies in composition. Graduates of the Bridge, and older composers whose music the orchestra has performed, assist as Teaching Artist Interns, creating an intensive learning environment for all.
  • Satellite programs around the United States — in Denver and Vail, CO; Stevens Point, WI; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN — are developing ongoing VYC programs with their own Teaching Artists trained by the Philharmonic.
  • Projects abroad — in Shanghai, Tokyo, Caracas, and Seoul - have demonstrated that children's creativity knows no borders. VYC introduces radical new ideas into differing educational cultures, which are developing their own approaches.

"Our ultimate aim is not to produce spectacular one-time concerts celebrating children's art - as laudable as these events have been. We are truly dedicated to learning from children, nurturing an art that takes root, flowers, and develops into a truly indigenous expression - and we are talking about small towns in Spain, the jungles of Venezuela and the mountains of Colorado or Japan, as well as in the streets and barrios of New York, San Paulo or Helsinki. Another thrilling aspect of this work is cherishing the small but detectable local differences between an instinctive, true kids' art in Seoul, Wisconsin, Asturias or Shanghai. What an incredible treasure awaits!"

Jon Deak
Young Composers Advocate at the New York Philharmonic

"Very Young Composers demonstrates again and again that students are not empty vessels, but bring vital ideas, experience, and personality to learning. It forces professionally trained composers to rethink some assumptions. And it holds the promise of contributing to a great flowering of musical creativity. When the full New York Philharmonic performs children's compositions for children's audiences, the level of attention spikes, and afterward, the music from the canon of greats is far less remembered than the 10-year-old who composed about her grandmother's stories. It is a privilege and a great responsibility for us at the New York Philharmonic to nurture the evolution and dissemination of Very Young Composers."

Theodore Wiprud
Director of Education
The Sue B. Mercy Chair

Very Young Composers Schools
(all participate in the School Partnership Program)

  • PS 24, Bronx
  • PS 39, Brooklyn
  • PS 59, Manhattan
  • PS 108, Manhattan
  • PS 165, Manhattan
  • PS 199, Manhattan

Very Young Composers Teaching Artists

  • Jon Deak, Young Composers Advocate at the New York Philharmonic
  • Richard Carrick
  • Daniel Felsenfeld
  • Avery Griffin
  • Paola Prestini
  • David Wallace

Student Work

  • student work 1

    The Growing Orchestra Tree

    An introduction illustrating the concepts behind the Very Young Composers, with students from PS 165
    Film by Mark Dichter, April 2003
    Watch the film

  • student work 2

    The Composer's Bridge

    play media Noah

    by Noah Jimenez
  • student work 3

    The Composer's Bridge

    play media Quintet in D and G major

    By Adam Bernstein
  • student work 6

    Burns Park Kids Get Creative!

    Fifth-grade students from the Burns Park Elementary School in Ann Arbor, MI area turn a simple "Thank You, Jon" into brilliantly creative songs and sound explorations Coordinated by Cynthia Page-Bogen, music teacher, November 2009.
    View larger version

  • student work 5

    The Composer's Bridge

    play media Bed of Lilies

    By Farah Taslima
  • student work 4

    The Composer's Bridge

    play media Bass Fiddle Fantasy

    By Grant Margolin

A Homework and Resource Guide for 2013–2014

Download the homework each week in PDF format.

Homework Assignments
Bridge I and II, week 1 (Dec 9)
Bridge I and II, week 2 (Jan 6)
Bridge I and II, week 3 (week of Jan 13)
Bridge I and II, week 4 (week of Jan 20)
Bridge II, week 5 (Feb 3) #1
Bridge II, week 5 (Feb 3) #2
Bridge I, week 5 (Feb 5)
Bridge I, week 6 (Feb 12)
Bridge II, week 6 (Feb 10)
Bridge I and II, week 7 (week of Feb 24)
Bridge I and II, week 8 (week of March 10)
Listening and following scores - for the Bridge I assignment
Bridge I and II, week 9 (week of March 17)
Bridge I and II, week 10 (week of March 24)
Bridge I and II, week 11 (week of March 31)
Bridge II, week 12 (week of April 7)
Part I: the postcard project
Part II: Classical Period Listening
Bridge II, week 13 (week of April 28)
Bridge I, week 14 (week of April 30)
Bridge I, week 15 (week of May 14)
Bridge II, week 15 (week of May 12)
Bridge I, week 16 (week of May 21)
Bridge II, week 16 (week of May 19)

Additional Resources
Interval Study Guide
Activity Book for Kids ? puzzles, games, coloring pages, and more.
Musical Journal
Things Composers Can Do with a Melody — Composite List

Who's Who
Jon Deak, Founder and Director, Very Young Composers
David Wallace, Senior Teaching Artist
Daniel Felsenfeld, Teaching Artist

Teaching Artist Associates
Luke Cissell
William Healy
Molly Herron
Angelica Negron
Andrew Roitstein

Teaching Artist Interns
Aiyana Braun
Ethan Cohn
Julian Galesi
Jack Gulielmetti
Tengku Irfan
David Lee
Xinyan Li
Michael Parsons
Tiffany Poon
Eric Poretsky
Daniel Rudin
Audrey Vardanega

2014–15 events to be announced.

What's Your Story

Credit Suisse Very Young Composers Video

In fall 2011, students in New York had the chance to compose for both Korean and western instruments, in a collaboration with Korea Arts and Culture Education Service. The music they created fuses two sound worlds in individual ways.

Listen to the music and stories of Credit Suisse Very Young Composers from Japan, Korea, and the United States as their works are performed at a Young People's Concert in April.


How to Get Involved

If you would like to learn how to work with student composers, or let us know about your own Very Young Composer, contact us at education@nyphil.org.

"When I compose, I feel like I'm taking part in today's culture. I wrote a piece based on a painting by Piet Mondrian, and a piece dedicated to the earthquake victims in Haiti."


Very Young Composer, age 13

With Deep Appreciation

This program is sponsored, in part, by The ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund.  Additional support provided by the Ethel K. & Sanford L. Solender Memorial Music Fund of UJA-Federation.

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